Pennsylvania's shame: Gov. Corbett needs to show leadership on the LCB

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The month before the election in which Tom Corbett won the race for governor, he said in no uncertain terms that he wanted to change the state's liquor system.

His words: "We need to move our state out of the 19th century and refocus state government on its core functions and services for our residents."

That was 20 months ago, and we're still waiting. Thanks to a lack of leadership on the part of Mr. Corbett and a lack of commitment to change among state legislators, Pennsylvania's Prohibition-era state liquor store system will live on, at least for another year.

That's an insult to Pennsylvanians, who repeatedly have said in surveys that they want the state to get out of the alcohol business. They just want to be able to buy beer, wine and liquor at reasonable prices in convenient locations, and they don't think the bureaucratic Liquor Control Board should own or operate the stores. Period.

State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Bradford Woods Republican, introduced a bill last summer that would have nearly doubled the number of retail stores by permitting the state to sell off licenses so private businesses could operate 750 large retail outlets and another 500 smaller stores such as boutique wine shops. Even beer distributors would have been able to apply, and Mr. Turzai sweetened the pot recently by amending the language so those owners would have been given first crack at liquor store licenses.

The prospects for passage sounded promising, particularly because the governor's own Republican Party holds advantages in both the House and Senate.

But Mr. Turzai said Tuesday that he can't garner the votes to get his bill passed. Efforts failed last year, too.

To say we are disappointed with Mr. Corbett's lack of leadership on this issue is an understatement. He should have been able to parlay his party's dominance in Harrisburg into success, especially if Republicans are to be believed when they claim to want less government and more free enterprise. Lawmakers in both parties, cowed by strong resistance from labor, share the blame.

In failing for two years running, Mr. Corbett follows in the footsteps of two of his Republican predecessors, Dick Thornburgh and Tom Ridge, who both tried but failed to end Pennsylvania's stranglehold on alcohol sales.

Pennsylvanians will remember every time they are inconvenienced by a trip to a state liquor store, and they'll remember when they vote.


First Published June 20, 2012 12:00 AM


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